Reflections on the year 2023 in Family Law

Julian Hawkhead, Managing Partner, Reflects on a fantastic year at Stowe

Step into the excitement of Stowe Family Law’s incredible 2023 journey! As we wrap up the year, I’m thrilled to share the highlights with you, alongside some dynamic colleagues.

Our firm has experienced significant growth, with our colleague numbers reaching over 360 and a total of 178 lawyers serving 86 locations nationwide. Yes, you read that right – 86 office locations, including the addition of 22 new locations from Watson Thomas and Crisp & Co. It has been a pleasure to welcome our new colleagues, learn from their experiences, and enhance our own Stowe Way of Working.

In terms of client numbers, we’ve witnessed a 25% increase, with over 4,000 progressing matters underway by early December. Our commitment to supporting more people remains unwavering.

The legal landscape in family law has seen some interesting developments in 2023. Looking ahead to 2024 and the possibility of a general election, the focus on cohabitation law reform becomes crucial. Regardless of one’s stance on the distinctions between marital and cohabiting relationships, there is consensus that reform is necessary to provide clarity and core rights to those facing financial vulnerability post-relationship breakdown.

Now, let’s delve into some notable developments shared by our colleagues:

Joanna Newton on the Legal Age of Marriage being Raised to 18

In February 2023, a significant shift occurred as the legal age of marriage in England and Wales was raised to 18. This modification revoked the prior allowance for 16- and 17-year-olds to marry or enter into a civil partnership with parental consent.

As of 27th February 2023, arranging a marriage for individuals under the age of 18 became a criminal offense, punishable by up to 7 years in prison. The motive behind this legislative change is rooted in the aim to enhance the protection of children from being coerced into underage marriages, shielding them from potential abuse. This proactive measure aligns with the government’s enduring commitment to combat violence against women and girls.

Before the enactment of the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Minimum Age) Act 2023, the law, unaltered since 1949, had inadvertently sanctioned child marriage, permitting those aged 16 and 17 to marry with parental consent. Despite being intended as a protective measure, the mechanism of parental consent had, in certain instances, become a conduit for parental abuse.

Gemma Davidson on Transformations in Fertility Law for Same-Sex Couples

This transformative change is a welcomed relief, and in the years to come, it is anticipated to exert a substantial influence in diminishing the incidence of forced marriages and violence, particularly against young girls.

In 2023, a ground-breaking shift in fertility law was announced by the government, targeting the reduction of discrimination faced by female same-sex couples in their journey towards parenthood through reciprocal IVF. This method, where one woman provides the egg and the other carries the child, will see pivotal changes.

The modification extends to same-sex couples, where one or both partners have an undetectable HIV viral load. Notably, female same-sex couples will no longer face additional screenings for infectious diseases, eliminating a hurdle absent in heterosexual couples and potentially saving up to £1000 in costs.

For those with undetectable HIV viral loads, the altered legislation grants access to IVF treatment, opening avenues for known sperm or egg cell donations to friends or relatives. While these adjustments aim to bridge the gap in fertility options and treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, acknowledgment of the existing disparities prompts reflection.

In August 2022, the government pledged to eliminate financial barriers for same-sex couples as part of the Women’s Health Strategy, a commitment yet to be fully realized. The anticipation for this change persists, and I am hopeful for continued progress in dismantling discrimination within the fertility landscape and garnering increased support for this unique pathway to parenthood in the approaching year of 2024.”

Megan Brookfield Explores the Legal Aspects of ‘Love Bombing

In April 2023, the Crown Prosecution Service introduced a transformative update to their guidance on controlling and coercive behaviour by incorporating the term ‘love bombing.’ This guidance now equips prosecutors with insights into the various tactics employed by abusers to manipulate their victims, specifically delving into the intricate dynamics of love bombing.

Love bombing, characterized by an abuser showering their victim with extravagant displays of affection amidst other controlling behaviours, often surfaces in the early stages of a relationship. This update marks a positive stride, shedding light on the diverse methods perpetrators employ to assert control. It not only brings clarity to the concept of love bombing as a coercive tactic but also provides family lawyers with a robust legal framework to assist clients, especially in obtaining protective orders from the family court.

While these legal updates represent a significant improvement in addressing coercive control, challenges persist. Proving coercive control remains a complex terrain, and although the legal framework has evolved, there is a collective recognition that more extensive efforts are needed. The journey towards aiding survivors and their families, particularly those endeavouring to break free from abusive relationships, continues to demand our unwavering commitment.

Ashley Le Core Examines the Intricacies of International Divorce

The high-profile divorce of Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner earlier this year sparked intriguing debates in family law, delving into crucial considerations such as jurisdiction for divorce proceedings and associated financial remedies. The significance of this lies in the fact that different jurisdictions offer distinct approaches to handling assets, potentially favouring one party over the other.

Amidst the media frenzy surrounding their divorce, the spotlight shifted to the intricate dynamics of child arrangements in international divorces. With Turner being British and Jonas American, the couple’s initial divorce proceedings hinted at a plan to settle their two young daughters in England, giving rise to issues, including accusations of child abduction.

In contrast to typical divorces, the considerable wealth of these parents means that regardless of where the determination is made for the children’s primary residence, the other parent can easily secure suitable accommodation. However, it’s essential to recognize that this luxury isn’t universally accessible in such cases.

While the long-term arrangements of the Jonas/Turner divorce remain uncertain, the interim solution involves the daughters traveling between the UK and the US. In international divorces, courts generally avoid expecting regular travel for children, especially if they are of school age. In such scenarios, the primary focus shifts to their education. Consequently, one of the parents is typically tasked with more travel, maintaining a base in the relevant jurisdiction, and allowing the children to spend quality time during more extended periods like school holidays.

The divorce saga of Jonas and Turner serves as a compelling case study, unravelling the complexities inherent in international and multi-jurisdictional divorces. Above all, it spotlights the intricate considerations surrounding the well-being of children in such circumstances.

A Final Sign Off

As family law unfolds into new dimensions, mirroring societal shifts and adapting to dynamic climates, Stowe Family Law stands at the forefront of this evolution. With an unwavering commitment to innovation, our leadership team remains vigilant, poised to navigate upcoming changes and advancements in the legal landscape..


For more great content like this, sign up to our legal newsletter to get articles sent straight to your email – click here to subscribe

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our offices. They give an insight into the latest updates in family law. Along with pieces from our family law legal team, guest contributors also regularly share their knowledge. Sign up below for the monthly legal newsletter, which provides you with everything you need to know in one place.

Leave a comment

Featured Vacancies

We’re building the best family law firm in the country, to do that, we need the best colleagues.
If that could be you, we’d love to hear from you.

View all vacancies

Join 1000+ Family Lawyers receiving the latest news, case updates and family law insights sent monthly to your inbox. Everything you need, in one place, for free.


Join the community

Complete the form below to receive the latest news, case updates and family law insights sent monthly to your inbox.

Form HTML will load here
Privacy Policy

Get in touch

Privacy Policy
Content here